Mythical merman, a manatee,
Gigantic rarity from the deep,
Another wounded bull beached . . .
So how does it come to sleep here
In sweat pants and polo shirt
Atop this rest home bedspread?
How will this quiet, gentle beast
Find its way back to the sea?
They say he was crazy
Dangerous in his youth, swimming
Like a porpoise torpedo
Aimed at greedy propellers
Churning, those extractors of
Want oblivious to need,
The fun hogs who left blood
In their copper-green wakes—
Too bad kids in water wings
Couldn’t get out of the way.
They say his poems haunt
The flooded stopes beneath Butte,
Poison pools that flutter like riffles
In his fingers, and the timber
Of his voice can still be heard
Ringing in the Silver Dollar Bar
If you put your ear to the neck
Of an uncorked quart of whiskey,
Half gone, and listen hard . . .
You’ll hear the cows, the chatter
Of the herd ahead, the clatter of rock
Shoveled, that scraping on stone,
And shot glasses softly clinking a toast
To the taste of that golden place
That leads to liquid home—
Where the mermaids linger wet
In the warm sun, beckoning
Him to join them, to return
To the gulf and sing the deep songs
No mortal has ever known.
for Ed Lahey (1936-2011)